Brookstone survived the brush with Prime Slime. So did a dozen organic roses, which became the center of inquiry. The question was, are all organic plants resistant to Prime Slime and all conventional plants susceptible? A visit to the farm in New Jersey, where the lovely roses originated, might provide some clues.
Terra Organics was nestled in the mountains above Hackettstown, New Jersey, home to everyone’s favorite M&Ms and Snicker bars. Beyond their celebrated roses, Terra cultivated an exotic vegetable garden, to help feed this health-oriented community. With organic goods at a premium and in great demand, Terra profited well beyond its needs. The extra revenue was funneled into education on organic food and sustainability.
This current intensive was on everything organic. Over 100 people–mostly New Yorkers–had signed up to attend. Nan reserved room and board for three for the weekend, with Ayden staying behind to hold down the lab.
This was much more than a scientific expedition. For Evo, it was an opening; another opportunity to expand his awareness and visibility. He was also discovering food, after a half-century of oblivion. This promised to be an array of taste sensations. He was open to just about everything.
There was one place he dared not venture, however. It turned out that Terra practiced polyamory. Residents were encouraged to engage with multiple sexual partners, often consisting of one man and two women, but occasionally vice versa. Bisexuality was also permitted. Pairing off was frowned upon; it interfered with communal intimacy and the pursuit of pleasure.
Katey Cairn had not been to a commune before, but was attracted to the concept. She was into organics and wholesome food. Though OK theoretically with Terra’s open lifestyle, she was not one to sleep around. In an ideal world, polyamory made sense. There was something magical about the place, or so she wanted to believe.
Nan applauded the abundance of unrefined, raw, organic food. She relished the banquet of homegrown delights, prepared with loving care. It made her feel part of the great cycle. At Terra, sustainable agriculture was a spiritual thing, and Nan was into that. As for the free love bit, she disapproved.
The mixed reactions to polyamory set Evo & company apart. The ladies were evolved and open-minded, but differed in their comfort zones. Perhaps it was a generational thing. Evo was high testosterone, and would have jumped at the chance to mingle, but for Nan. He barely managed not head turning or gawking.
Most attendees arrived the night before. Evo and Nan got a room upstairs; one of many in the main building. Katey shared a room on the first floor. The rooms were small and stark, but clean. Provisions consisted of the bare essentials: a mattress on a wooden platform, clean sheets, bath towels, a chest of drawers, and a shared bathroom down the corridor on each floor. Creaky wooden floors announced the presence of anyone walking about.
It was near bedtime when they arrived. A bosomy, braless intern in tie-die escorted them to their rooms. She was tattooed and rippled with ringlets, like many of Terra’s residents.
It was the first time Nan and Evo “slept” together, she in striped pajamas and he in boxer shorts. Nan showered and was in bed reading, when Evo spooned up behind her. After a warm cuddly moment, she pulled away.
“Shouldn’t we proceed slowly?” Evo fell back on his pillow. “I like snuggling too, but we need to build trust first.”
“What’s the difference, now or later?” Evo asked. “We’ve known each other long enough.” Again, he snuggled up close.
“These are sacred acts, Evo. It takes time to know if someone is right. Why entangle us in a messy web that we’ll regret later?”
“But how can we be sure of love before we make love?”
“Your addictions keep you from intimacy,” Nan responded.
Though a bit slighted, Evo felt the pinch of truth. He had issues. Avoiding commitment all those years had taken its toll.
“You have no idea what I’ve been through,” Evo cried, as he rolled to the far edge of the bed, his back to Nan.
“I’m not picking on you,” Nan whispered, as she cuddled up close. “This problem belongs to many men. It is part of our culture, how we raise our children.” Nan pulled him close with her free hand. “If you are out of integrity in romance, you are not a man of integrity. If you lie and cheat on women, you are a liar and a cheater. There’s no double standard.”
Evo remained quiet in thought. Nan had hit a resonant chord. He turned and looked into her eyes. She was incredible, even in the dark. Nan wiped away his tears, and they fell into a deep embrace, from which Nan had to pull away once more.
“Time to take a cold shower,” Evo said, as he creaked away to the bathroom. En route, he praised the wisdom of uncertainty. It was time to let go of expectations, and go with the flow. There was a lot that Nan could teach him, and he was paying close attention. That night, he dreamed of being washed ashore from a raging river, then drying up like sand on a warm, inviting beach.
They arose the next morning with the rising heat. Evo was again squarely on one track. He nestled up behind her and expressed himself with the only language available. He kissed her neck, caressed her arms, and snuggled up closer.
Not awake enough to protest, Nan murmured with pleasure. “You make it difficult.” she sighed.
“Let’s make love,” Evo mumbled, bad breath and all.
“Let’s just enjoy being close.”
“I guess,” he moaned.
Once dressed, they walked downstairs to the main hall, which was packed tightly with rows of mismatched chairs. An assortment of folks soon filled the room: hippies, grunge, new-age types, military personnel, soccer moms, and guys in monkey suits, all vying for seats. Evo was surprised at the number of young people present. As usual, there were many more women than men, given their interest in matters of health. Evo’s mother was that way, too. All walks of life were drawn to the organic concept.
In the back were long tables bedecked with food. Terra’s permanent residents worked the kitchen during these conferences and served breakfast as participants arrived. They prepared a variety of healthy delights: whole grain breads and cereals, raw nut butters, cut-up fruits & veggies, free-range eggs, grass-fed full-fat yogurt, avocados, tempeh and tofu, tea and coffee were all being offered.
Coffee was all Evo could handle. The brew was organic and fair-trade. Nan winced in disgust as Evo dumped four cubes of coconut sugar into his cup. Without cream, Evo resorted to hemp milk. “What a way to ruin a cup of joe”, he said, after taking a sip.
Nan chose eggs, spinach salad and an assortment of berries. It was a colorful plate and low-carb, which explained her slim figure. She sat next to Evo in the front row.
The topic of the morning was organic gardening. The speaker, a tall, handsome fellow named Philmore Potts, who ran the farming operations at Terra. He had just arrived from the garden; straw hat, overalls, and dirty boots to boot. His mousey brown ponytail swayed freely as he worked the crowd.
Philmore Potts was one serious farmer. The food he grew was toxin free, flavorful and packed with nutrition. But most people knew Terra for its ornamentals. Philmore’s roses were of the highest quality and very popular with upscale New Yorkers. The gardens were a lovely place to stroll on a Sunday afternoon. Despite the drought, Terra maintained an attractive and productive garden, thanks to Philmore. He loved the land, and it returned the favor.
Philmore was not a proponent of polyamory, nor was he seeing anyone. His love lay in his garden. As with Nan, romance interfered with his work. He respected the rights of others to love as they pleased, as long as they directed some of it toward his garden.
In stark contrast, Evo was beside himself. A couple of ladies had already smiled invitingly his way, enough to feed his fantasies.
Actually, there was little casual sex at Terra. Most were loyal to their partners. That made perfect sense to Katey, but Nan had her druthers.
Katey finally arrived for breakfast, fixed a bowl of fruit, and sat on the other side of Evo. He looked pretty smug between those two lovely ladies. They could have been mistaken for a Terra love trio, and an attractive one at that.
Polyamory aside, most Terra residents were very affectionate. Guests were impressed by their kindness. Sexuality was only one aspect of their love. It was also evident in their music, their dance-like movements, and frequent touching. It was titillating just watching them. They treated the guests and each other like gods and goddesses. This was the vibe Katey admired.
What Nan deemed inappropriate, Katey saw as an evolution in love. What Evo gawked at, Philmore simply ignored. Polyamory evokes all kinds of reactions from people.
After breakfast and cleanup, Philmore started the presentation. The crowd grew quiet and attentive. He thanked everyone for coming and praised the audience for their evolved tastes. He approached a flip chart containing outlines and drawings. With a few props, Philmore aimed to define organic agriculture, in contrast to conventional farming. He touched on issues of sustainability, quality, toxicity, taste and nutrition, all in support of the organic method.
“Conventional agribusiness is a disaster. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are destroying the arable earth. Cancer-causing insecticides are killing our children. People suffer from diseases unheard of 100 years ago.
“They say that GMOs will feed our growing population. Whatever happened to common sense? These problems are better solved with organic food, but Big Agra is not listening. They have placed profit above health.”
“Big Pharma is just as bad”, Nan interjected. “They wait for us to get sick, then treat with expensive drugs and surgery.”
“Well, yes, it’s the same problem,” Philmore responded. “In capitalism, everything gets corrupted; our food, our health. Wholesome, organic food, not drugs, is the answer.”
“Also vitamins and mineral supplements,” Nan replied.
“Yes, as concentrated food they complement a good diet. Supplements may address a number of problems, but they are typically synthetic or cheap excuses for vitamins. And most don’t contain the many phytonutrients found in whole, organic food. So, yes, food-based supplements are useful, but healthy food is king.”
“Our health system is broken,” someone shouted.
“Corporations invest in sickness, not health.”
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment,” Philmore exclaimed, as he turned toward Katey. “Keeping the soil healthy produces quality food, which makes for healthy people. But rape the soil of its minerals, earthworms, and friendly bacteria, and you’ve got…shit!” Katey disapproved of his foul language, in a subtle, playful way.
Evo raised his hand anxiously. He knew there were injustices, but was annoyed at the anti-science rhetoric.
“The jury is still out on GMOs,” Evo trumpeted, as all eyes moved in his direction. “Most scientists regard them as safe.”
A collective moan ran through the crowd. Evo was alone on this one. Even Katey and Nan edged away. Fortunately, no one threw any organic tomatoes.
Philmore turned up his nose. “Frankenfoods are part of the problem. Monopolies are betting their future on GMOs. But why use synthetic or genetic solutions for problems caused by poor soil management? We must base farming methods on sounder principles.” The crowd cheered Philmore on, but Evo was not finished.
“Most of our food has already been genetically modified, over hundreds and thousands of years of breeding. Molecular biology allows us to fine-tune the process, to avoid unwanted or dangerous results. GMOs may benefit food production and farm incomes. It could reduce the number of pesticides needed to protect crops. Salt-tolerant varieties could help feed the poor living in non-arable lands. Vitamin content can be bolstered to help cure blindness. Wonderful things can be done with the technology.”
One woman stood up and shouted, “Then why are they spraying pesticides all over GMO crops?”
“Where’s the beef?” Philmore added. “There’s no evidence in support of higher yields, reduced pesticide use, greater farm profits, cheaper food, or fewer hungry people. GMOs are a hoax to prolong dysfunctional systems. Herbicide-tolerant crops give an excuse to further poison our land. And the large-scale confinement of engineered animals is an insult to nature.
“Genetics is not the answer. It’s really much simpler than that. We don’t need gene jockeys telling us how to farm. In the hands of big agribusiness, genetics and synthetic chemicals become tools to promote mediocrity, waste and disease.”
As Philmore tried to calm himself, Katey came to his aid: “I’ve been reading about Bt corn, a GMO that makes its own insecticide. Unfortunately, it’s killing off good insects as well. And now it looks like pests are becoming Bt resistant. Must we keep modifying genes to keep up?”
“Better to address the composition of the soil,” Philmore replied. “Organics have been shown repeatedly to improve disease resistance, mineral content and nutritional quality of foods.”
Nan added: “Broccoli grown in high-selenium soil dramatically reduced cancer in rats. Unfortunately, our soils lack selenium.”
She turned to Evo: “Bacteria are vital to health, not just germs to be destroyed. Antibiotics also kill friendly bacteria, producing more disease than they cure. Soil organisms are just as fragile.”
“Even more so”, Philmore exclaimed. “We attack soil harder than we do humans.
Yet farmers keep spraying by the truckload.”
Philmore drew the equation ‘HEALTH = ORGANIC’ on the flip chart. Above and below he wrote ‘SOIL’ and ‘GUT’.
Evo was listening, but still held to his argument: “With any technology, the risks and benefits must be weighed. We have yet to see the value of GMO technology.” A long silence followed.
Philmore broke in: “Currently the technology is promoted by conglomerates for profit. They control the federal regulators, and do pretty much as they please, without checks and balances.
“All food was once organic and grown locally. Now our food comes from half way around the world, and we know little about how it is grown.” Evo and Katey recalled the Kleb-infested lettuce.
“Fortunately, organic farming is growing rapidly.”
Katey was curious: “Are the levels of trace minerals higher in organic fruits and vegetables?”
“It’s been shown repeatedly,” Philmore responded. “In biodynamic farming, rock dusts are added to the compost. Others use sea salt, biochar or fish meal to add back minerals. Mineral-rich soils produce plants with higher protein, and greater resistance to insects, disease and drought. The minerals are then passed on to us. Minerals are the critical component for a healthy planet.
“A century ago, fruits and vegetables were much richer in minerals. The world is now in a mineral-depleted state, and many human ills are linked to soil mineral depletion. Synthetic fertilizers replace only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. They increase yield but both the product and soil are compromised.”
“Organic foods are also higher in antioxidants, which protect against disease and keep us from aging prematurely,” Nan added.
Evo now understood why the organic roses survived Prime Slime. Healthy plants are resistant to opportunists. Still, he needed to make a point: “No doubt, organic is important. But biotechnology can improve lives. We can prevent blindness in millions of people in third world countries by engineering vitamin A into food.” He meant well, but Evo was merely sowing anger and confusion.
Philmore responded. “How can we possibly improve on nature, fashioned over billions of years? Rather, science has had a negative impact on food quality. Natural resources, arable land and clean water are declining, and global temperatures are rising.”
“Humans are at the point of breakdown from poor nutrition,” Nan added. “Chronic diseases are in epidemic proportions. Alzheimers, autism, allergies, asthma, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and macular degeneration have reached record numbers in the last 50 or so years. This is the impact of science and medicine.
“Perhaps. . .” said Evo, clearing his throat. “But this is science in the hands of the ignorant and greedy. This is capitalism out of control. Sure, we’ve taken many wrong turns. But the possibility still exists for doing good in the world through science.”
“There is some truth to that,” Philmore said. “If science aligned itself with nature’s wisdom, people would be far less suspicious.”
Everyone felt that they had been heard. They all bowed their heads in respect to the greater wisdom.
After the conference, many participants remained for supper. The spread of food was even more impressive than at breakfast. Loaves of sprouted grain bread, fermented foods, seaweeds, mushroom sautés, raw milk cheeses, green juices, and a large assortment of fruits and vegetables were offered. It was a vegetarian’s delight. Nan avoided the bread, but shared other morsels with Evo. Philmore sat between Evo and Katey during the feast.
As the crowd dwindled, Evo leaned over to Philmore: “In confidence, let me tell you why we’re here.” He moved a little closer. “A GMO monster was accidentally created in our lab.”
Katey interjected: “Inadvertently, we created a slime that is deadly to plants. It wiped out our entire greenhouse within a few hours, and turned flowers to mush. The only plants left standing were your roses.” Katey had a soft spot for roses and enlightened men.
“That’s amazing! “Nothing else survived your slime?”
“It destroyed an entire football field!” Katey added.
Philmore was alarmed, but couldn’t help touting his flowers. “Most of our income is derived from our flowers. Our cut roses open wide, last for weeks, and sell out faster than we can harvest.”
“We are quite impressed,” Katey said, with eyes wide open.
“Frankly, this disease puzzles me,” Philmore admitted. “There’s nothing like it in nature. I recall a blight in the ‘70s that wiped out half the corn crop, but it was not nearly as aggressive.”
“Would you like to pursue this further?” Katey asked.
“You mean with my plants?” Philmore replied.
“Of course,” Evo interjected, ignoring their flirtations. “We want to see if all organic plants are resistant, and all conventional plants sensitive.”
“It would be my pleasure!” Philmore assured him. “I’m curious to see how we do. Our movement is in need of scientific validity.
“We have everything you need. There’s a conventional nursery nearby to provide the perfect negative control. They grow the same flowers, but that’s where the similarity ends.”
“These experiments need to be conducted secretly in high-level containment,” Evo warned.
“Come decorate our lab,” Katey offered.